First, I wandered around the Bahai House of Worship in Delhi, popularly known as the Lotus Temple for its flowerlike architecture, a perfect fit since the lotus holds meaningful symbolic importance in Indian culture. It is the ‘Mother Temple’ of the Indian subcontinent.
The key to the Bahai faith is that it brings people together. Inside the temple, nothing is ritualized and all are welcome. All people, regardless of their religious background, can gather together to worship God without restriction, and holy scriptures from all faiths are read or chanted.
My only prior experience with the Bahai faith was a peripheral one. When I was studying at Beloit College I took a painting class around the time of my junior year. A visiting art instructor–I only remember his first name, Brian, and the fact that he was working on a manuscript called “Creative Being”–told me a little about the temple he and his wife attended in Milwaukee. I remember being struck by the fact that it tries to incorporate all religions, and in my mind I kind of lumped it alongside the Unitarian church as a mysterious relative from abroad.
The place was surprisingly crowded when I arrived. After wading through the sea of people I deposited my shoes near the temple steps. Then I stood in another line to gain entry. As visitors exited, other groups were allowed in. The interior resembled a typical church to me, my background being Catholic, with wooden benches. I loved how the seating is in a circular arrangement, and I spent a few minutes sitting and enjoying the company of everyone else who sat in silent reverie. I wondered what the experience meant to each person. I suspect a lot of them were simply curious, like me.
From the steps of the Lotus Temple, one of the people who I’d gone with, Jennifer, actually spotted the nearby ISKCON Temple in the nearby Hare Krishna Hills. Did someone say Hare Krishna?! We had to check it out.
A short cab ride brought us to the temple steps. At the time I didn’t know much about Krishna, other than he is an incarnation of Vishnu who fits into the Hindu triad as the maintainer or preserver of life. In retrospect, I wish I’d taken more time to look around, especially after meeting the representative from Akshaya Patra, the NGO that distibutes “midday meals” to needy children every day.